When to Apply

For most people, before you can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan, you must sign up for Original Medicare (Parts A and B). You can first enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan during your Initial Enrollment Period (IEP), which is a seven month time span that includes the three months before the month you turn 65, your birthday month and the three months after your birthday month. If you don’t enroll during your Initial Enrollment Period, you may have to wait to enroll during Medicare Open Enrollment, which is October 15-December 7. If you enroll later, your premiums could be higher.

Medicare Due to Disability

If you aren’t yet 65 but qualify for Medicare due to a disability, your 7-month IEP includes the month you receive your 25th disability check plus the 3 months before and the 3 months after.

General Enrollment Period

You may use the General Enrollment Period (GEP) to enroll in Medicare Part A, Part B or both if you miss your IEP. The GEP happens every year from January 1 to March 31. You may also choose to join a Medicare Advantage plan or a prescription drug plan from April 1 to June 30 the same year.

Special Enrollment Period: Working past 65

Late Enrollment Penalties

It’s important to know your enrollment dates and to enroll on time. The following penalties could apply if you don’t, unless you qualify for a SEP or another exception.


  • Part A: People who pay a premium (most don’t) could pay an additional 10% of the premium amount. The penalty is charged every month for twice the number of years enrollment was delayed.

  • Part B: You could pay an additional 10% of the premium amount for each full 12-month period enrollment is delayed. The penalty is charged every month for as long as you have Part B.

  • Part D: You could pay an additional 1% of the average Part D premium for each month you delay enrollment. The penalty is charged every month for as long as you’re enrolled in Part D.

  • Medicare supplement insurance: You could be denied coverage or charged a higher premium based on your health history.

Working Beyond 65

If you turn 65 but continue to work, you have options:


  • There is still a Medicare Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) when you turn 65. You may choose to enroll in Part A during this time. As long as you or your spouse worked and paid Medicare taxes for at least 10 years, it’s still premium free.

  • In this scenario, Medicare doesn’t notify you about your IEP unless you currently get Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits so you have to be proactive and enroll in Medicare yourself.

  • You may qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period (SEP) that allows you to delay enrolling in Part B and Part D without incurring late enrollment penalties but you will need to get confirmation of creditable coverage from your employer.

  • If you’re covered by your working spouse’s employer health insurance plan, and you are 65 or older, you may qualify for a Medicare Special Enrollment Period when your spouse’s employer insurance ends. Same-sex spouses included.

Do I need to enroll each year?

Your plan renews automatically each year as long as you pay the premium and the plan is still available where you live. You don’t have to do anything to continue your coverage, but make sure that the plan is meeting your needs.

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